Secret of Adulthood: It’s Easier to Demand a Lot from Yourself When You’re Giving a Lot to Yourself.

Further Secrets of Adulthood:


Agree, disagree?

In my view, this is why we must have treats! Treats for everyone–but they must be healthy treats, and that can be a challenge. Also, sometimes treats don’t look like treats.

This subject comes up a lot in my next book…and very soon, all will be revealed about that! If you’ve been paying very, very, very close attention, you may know what I’m writing about; if not, stay tuned.

Do you find that it’s easier to ask more of yourself when you’re also giving more to yourself? What do you do, to re-charge your battery?

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  • Gail Trowbridge

    Hi Gretchen – I’m doing your “21 days to knowing yourself better” (may have that title wrong), and this particular idea, i.e. demanding more of myself, is a revelation. For years, my resolution is to be kinder to myself, and now I’m seeing that yes, I can be kind, but I also need to be firm with myself. I struggle with getting to the projects in my life that are the most important to me, and I’ll never achieve them if I’m always letting myself off the hook! An important paradox! Thanks for this blog, and thank you for your books. I think they’re the wisest self-help books I’ve encountered, and you lead me to such interesting philosophers and writers. I look forward to your upcoming book!

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks so much for the kind words! I’m so happy to hear that my work has been useful.

  • Sarah Frumento

    This post has really made me think. I do demand a lot of myself, and one way I do that is by not giving myself enough (sleep in particular). Seeing the comment from Gail T has made me think that maybe I should try the “know myself better” – 21 day program. Thank you.

  • Alison

    Sleep. Spend an evening on my own curled up on the sofa reading a book. Spend an evening with my two best friends either actually together or talking on the phone (can last for hours which puts the kibosh on the sleep! All give me energy and help me to stay calm so I can achieve more and better.

  • applgrrl

    I haven’t been doing so well lately, and maybe it is because I give myself nothing. No compliments, no treats, no kind words. I am my own worst enemy. I just recently discovered your work and am already a huge fan. Thanks for everything you do to spread happiness.

  • Esther

    More food for thought as usual Gretchen – thank you. I have noticed lots of negative self talk over the past few years, and am currently working on changing that. I have therefore been somewhat surprised that as I took up training for a half marathon, I DIDN’T have negative things to say to myself, and in fact spoke at length (probably too much) about my training and how it was going, my latest runs etc etc. It feels like this somehow links in, although my gut instinct was that it has been easier to give myself a lot when I’ve demanded a lot…..

  • peninith1

    Always, for me, the test is about ‘what I give myself’–I know perfectly good and well that when I am living in some way without integrity, based on MY idea of what that means (Questioner, yes I am) then I am draining and undermining myself. Yet it is so easy to delude myself with all kinds of indulgences from too much food to too much disorder to another glass of wine in the evening to time wasting activities to whipping out my credit card instead of doing something I really want to do. Why does the actually unrewarding so often lure me away from my true rewards? I suspect it’s sheer laziness. I, too undertook the 21 day ‘know yourself better challenge’ . . . I wasn’t able to put off trying to get fit and healthy any longer. This time (yes, there have been many other times) I have done my best to give myself an accountability framework that could work for me. Thanks for giving me the impetus for an additional attempt!

  • Esther zheng

    Thank you.

  • Chelsea


    I am 1/4 of the way through your book, “The Happiness Project”, and I am just stunned. I wanted to tell you that it is changing my life already. I get choked up every time I read it. It just touches me so much, makes me think so much….I am not doing a very good job of expressing this! Basically, your book came to me at a time when I really needed it. I haven’t even finished and it already means SO much to me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Can’t thank you enough!

    Chelsea Donovan

    • Chelsea

      I’m sorry. That was not my intention. I really just wanted to show my appreciation. I always sign with my blog, I thought that was a good way to allow people I admire to know who their fans are, and see the direct result of their inspiration. Didn’t even realize it seemed so tacky! 🙁

      I tried to delete it just now but I can’t figure out how.

      • gretchenrubin

        Don’t worry about it!

    • peninith1

      Chelsea–a lot of people seem to include links here. Maybe tacky, maybe not. We readers always have the choice whether or not to go there! Don’t feel bad about it!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so thrilled to hear that it strikes a chord with you! Good luck with YOUR happiness project.

  • Daphné

    I find it very inspiring to read what others do to recharge their batteries / reward themselves, so I hope by sharing my tricks, I’ll inspire other readers.
    What do I do to recharge my batteries: When money flows, I book a massage, a manicure. When I achieve a success (Getting to the 2nd round of a job application process for example) I will treat myself to that scarf / shoes / costume jewelry I spotted some time ago and didn’t buy (being an under-buyer). When money doesn’t flow: I book some time with myself and focus on creating a complex dish (a Julia Child recipe / improving my signature lasagna recipe / a “Fall vegetables inspired” tajine…) I noticed that being creative and sharing my creations makes me happy (but pressure kills my creativity), so I try to plan these creative times with myself and it feels more special. Another reward when money doesn’t flow is to book some time to read whatever best seller novel I am into, with a full teapot of high quality tea… I agree it takes time and discipline to treat ourselves well. Thanks to the Happiness Project book, I enhance my ability to be happier 😉

  • BKF

    I was under the impression that your new book is about habits, why we do or don’t do certain things. But perhaps, I’m wrong! Looking forward to it anyway.

  • HEHink

    For me, this is especially true when the treats don’t look like treats on the surface. For instance, I like to walk into a clean kitchen in the morning. It gives me a feeling of serenity and readiness for the day. If the sink is full of dishes, it makes me feel like I’m already behind. To give myself the treat of a clean kitchen, I have to make the demand of myself to clean up before I go to bed. (I have accepted that the little elves in the fairy tale about the shoemaker just aren’t going to show up and do it for me.) Thinking of starting the next day with a clean kitchen usually helps me fulfill that demand.

    The tricky part comes on days when I’m so tired that leaving the dishes and going to bed early truly would be a treat, because I know that I’ll function much better the next day, clean kitchen or not. Do I demand that I stay up longer and clean, or do I demand that I go to bed? I usually have to go with whatever makes the most sense on any given day. Sometimes the treat is knowing that the decision is yours to make, and the world won’t fall apart either way.

  • Kersita

    I agree, we must have treats for ourselves; it can be inspiring, motivating or just relaxing. But sometimes I find fit hard to treat myself, because a little part of me argues that I don´t deserve it or that money/time etc could be spent more “wisely”-meaning in a more productive way. And I just read the chapter about having more fun and simply take some time to be silly….I love it! For me it took a bit to really do it though;-) Treats for me are still small things, like having a chocolate muffin after a good week at the gym, or a hot bath after a stressful day. It makes me feel much better; by treating myself I also reward myself and acknowledge what I am doing. For sure it makes me more prepared for upcoming challenges!

  • Amy Tippin

    I have read “The Happiness Project”, and I continue to read this blog. I have noticed a change in my attitude and how I look at the world. This particular post is true. You should only expect back what you give to someone else. So why should it be different for yourself?
    I have even started my own blog on what makes me happy. Thank you!

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that my work strikes a chord with you. Good luck with YOUR happiness project.

  • Joyce Oxfeld

    I just tweeted two of you articles about tweeting. Very nice. I am a hoarder and it would definitely feel better for me to be able to tackle that, and feel comfy in my own surroundings.

  • Marjorie

    I am very good about treating myself. My husband says I have a “strong sense of survival”. He, on the other hand, is very selfless and a much better person. My treats – chocolate, red wine, reading, yoga, walks, movies, TV shows I like, Vietnamese iced coffee, sleeping in, beef tenderloin, trips to Calgary, baths… I’m easily pleased and require very little maintenance.

  • Rachel

    I really enjoyed both of your books, Gretchen. But for your next one, I would really like to see references/footnotes for the studies you discuss. Instead of just, “Research shows…”, give a reference to the research for those of us who like to know where the information is coming from. Thanks. 🙂

  • Carol

    Hi Gretchen, I read “The happiness project” and I loved it!! I really relate to a lot of the things you mention and it has helped me.
    However, I have a conflict with this “treats” and “rewards” mentality. Don’t get me wrong, I agree it works, but what do you do if, like myself, your lack of motivation or sadness comes from unemployment.
    I studied 2 degrees and I have been able to find good jobs. Last july I gratuated as a college and middle school History teacher and I was SO proud but actually didn’t have a lot of money to treat myself. Now I have to struggle all summer to find at least a few hours of teaching but I can’t “treat” myself to motivate me because I don’t know if I’ll have to live another year with only my savings.
    Another example: this month I’ll have one of my History articles published in a scientific journal. This is my biggest achievement to this day and one of my life goals (and I already accomplished it by 27!) but I can’t reward myself without guilt because this achievement doesn’t come with a paycheck. It’s good for you career, for your resume, etc, but still no money.

    And I can’t consider “inexpensive treats” because in my country we have a 30% annual inflation, so even a little piece of dark chocolate (my favourite) costs a lot.
    I have some savings still, and if a medium could tell me “you WILL find a good job next year” I wouldn’t mind spending them, but the unknown it’s what stops me from treating myself.

  • Carol

    *I haven’t been able to find good jobs* was the correct sentence.
    PS: It’s not that I can’t find a job because of my bad english, I’m actually from South America and we speak Spanish here 🙂